Ricardo Benedicto

Ricardo Benedicto

Anne M. Eberhardt

Argentine Aspirations

Argentina has produced four BC winners from just 14 starters.

From just 14 starters, Argentina has been represented as the breeding ground of the winners of four Breeders’ Cup World Championships races. Owner/breeder Ricardo Benedicto wants to make it five. But not just yet. First, he has another goal—becoming the first owner from Argentina to win a Breeders’ Cup race.

The 54-year-old native of Buenos Aires shipped his filly, Lady Sprinter, to the United States months ago to prepare for her run in the Sentient Flight Group Filly & Mare Sprint.

“In South America, most male horses are sold as horses in training,” Benedicto said while shopping for yearlings at the Keeneland September sale. “This would be the first filly to race in the Breeders’ Cup in Argentine colors (silks).”

In three years of a four year stretch, the Distaff (gr. I) winner was bred in Argentina. Bayakoa won the Distaff in 1989 and 1990, and is still the only two-time winner of the race in its 24 runnings. In 1992, Paseana won the Distaff.

The other Argentine-bred winner was Invasor, who took the Classic - Presented by Dodge (gr. I) in 2006.

But, as Benedicto pointed out, all three were racing for owners other than those who raced them in South America.

Both Bayakoa and Paseana were purchased for North American owners by trainer Ron McAnally, who saddled Bayakoa for Frank and Janis Whitham and Paseana for Sid Craig. Bayakoa (by Consultant’s Bid) was bred by Haras Principal, while Paseana (by Ahmad) was bred by Haras Vacacion.

Invasor (by Candy Stripes) was bred by Haras Clausan and raced in Uruguay before being purchased by Sheikh Hamdan and sent to trainer Kiaran McLaughlin.

At the urging of Argentine bloodstock agent Alejandro “Alex” Romero, Benedicto began coming to Keeneland to purchase horses four years ago. He bought Lady Sprinter from her breeder, the Beck family’s Gainesway Farm, for $35,000.

Lady Sprinter, by champion sprinter Orientate out of the Dixieland Band mare Passionate Player, was the champion sprinter in Argentina last year, when she won her first six starts, all dirt sprints, including the group I Maipu. Her lone career defeat came in her final start, her only outing on turf. This year, Lady Sprinter has been out twice, most recently winning the Ciudad de Buenos Aires (Arg-I),

Trained by Juan Javier Etchechoury in Argentina, Lady Sprinter was accompanied to the U.S. by trainer Juan Reviriego. She has had plenty of time to acclimate to Southern California, her first timed work in this country coming Aug. 18. That move, and her next two, were at Fairplex Park. Her last five workouts have been at Santa Anita.

Lady Sprinter will be ridden by the world’s winningest jockey, Jorge Ricardo, who is slightly ahead of Northern California-based Russell Baze. Ricardo has been aboard her in all of her starts.

Benedicto, who started racing when he was 17 and owns La Pasion Farm, has 150 horses in training and owns 80 broodmares. Trained as an engineer and originally involved in construction and real estate development, for the past 17 years he has headed Casino Club, which operates 9,600 slot machines, 4,200 at the racetrack in Palermo.

Romero began attending Keeneland sales a dozen years ago and has purchased three broodmares, Lava Gold, Chica Fresa, and S.S. Asiatic, who have gone on to produce group winners. He also is a part of the team that purchases horses for South African trainer Mike de Kock.